Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Meth use on rise in Kingdom

Meth use on rise in Kingdom

A police officer questions a detained man after a drug raid on a house in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district
A police officer questions a detained man after a drug raid on a house in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district turned up numerous bags of methamphetamine last week. NATIONAL POLICE

Meth use on rise in Kingdom

Cambodia's appetite for synthetic drugs is increasing, warns a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, with the use and production of amphetamine-type substances both on the upswing in the Kingdom.

The report, titled The Challenge of Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia and Oceania, was released today and examines developments in the synthetic drug market and the challenges governments in the region face in combating the trade.

“East and Southeast Asia and Oceania has the world’s largest ATS [amphetamine-type substances] market, which is dominated by methamphetamine in crystalline and tablet forms,” a UNODC statement said.

In 2013, according to the report, crystal methamphetamine was the “primary drug of concern” in Cambodia, though the country has seen an uptick in the use of both crystal meth, known popularly as “ice”, and the tablet form referred to locally as yama.

The report says that people receiving treatment for methamphetamine addiction accounted for 94 per cent of people undergoing rehabilitation in Cambodia.

Maxing out at about $5 a pill, the yama available in Cambodia is some of the cheapest in the region. The drug, a mixture of methamphetamine, caffeine and other cutting agents, is widely available and wildly popular. It has historically been favoured by users who work blue-collar jobs for long hours, such as fishermen, truck drivers and construction workers.

“In recent years, there have been reports of methamphetamine tablets being possibly manufactured in Cambodia and Vietnam,” the report says.

Crystal methamphetamine, on the other hand, is usually much purer, stronger and more expensive than the tablets. In Cambodia, the drug is viewed as a cleaner and less-risky yama alternative, and due to its relative strength, has seen its popularity rise by both the lower and upper classes.

David Harding, technical adviser at the NGO Friends International in Cambodia, works with younger, at-risk people to educate them on the dangers of drug abuse. He said his organisation has witnessed a major rise in crystal methamphetamine use.

“What we’ve seen is a very dramatic upswing in crystal methamphetamine [use],” he said. “It’s seen as much more aspirational.” Harding added that increased domestic production of the drug, as well as a lack of education about its ills, has likely led to it being abused by more Cambodians, particularly youths. “There have been meth labs uncovered in Cambodia, which means supply is likely to be higher than say, heroin, which is imported,” he said. “The more meth you have around, the more, obviously, it is an option to use.”

The report, which stressed the need for increased cooperation between states, also noted that in addition to more classic trafficking routes in the region, “large amounts” of crystal methamphetamine were perceived as having been smuggled into Cambodia from Africa, as well.

In addition to ATS, the UNODC said that new psychoactive substances also signal a major concern for the regions studied. Cambodia, in particular, has seen the emergence of ketamine, a PCP-like substance that causes hallucinations and out-of-body experiences, in its borders.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • EDC tackles power shortfall

    Electrcite Du Cambodge (EDC) on Monday issued a statement updating the public on its efforts to tackle insufficient electricity supplies during the ongoing dry season. Reductions in electricity prices have resulted in a steady increase in consumers in the Kingdom, while local and international investors

  • African swine fever spreads to VN-Cambodia border

    African swine fever has spread to parts of Vietnam that border Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces, a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official said on Friday. Tan Phannara, the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general, told a Phnom Penh workshop that